Dental implant procedures are not new but have gained great popularity over the past decade due to the longevity and natural look that the structures provide. Although dentures are still a well-accepted method of replacing one or more missing teeth, they don’t offer some of the many benefits afforded by implants, which is why more and more dentists are recommending that their patients take the latter route for tooth replacement.
What are Dental Implants?
An implant is in essence a prosthetic tooth that is attached to a titanium fixture which is permanently set into the jawbone. The success or failure of the titanium fixture to assimilate or osseointegtate with the bone depends on the oral health of the patient. If the missing tooth was lost due to accelerated bone loss, a bone graft may first be required in order to build the mass back up to a supportive state or the procedure may be discouraged altogether depending on the cause and severity of the bone deterioration. Other factors such as drug use, smoking, and poor oral care may also cause implants to fail.
What Does the Procedure Entail?
First, your dental professional will evaluate your overall oral health in order to determine if your tissue and bone are healthy and if you are a good candidate for the procedure. If your dentist, periodontist or oral surgeon has declared that you are a prime candidate, a titanium post will be placed into the bone socket where the tooth is missing. As the tissue and bone heals, the post is assimilated and anchored into the jawbone for a secure attachment. In most cases, this can take from 6 – 12 weeks. During the healing process, your dentist may provide you with a temporary removable tooth device known as a “flipper”. A small connector post, called an abutment, is attached to the titanium post to firmly hold the new replacement tooth in place. Your dentist will make an impression of your remaining teeth in order to custom produce the new replacement tooth in the proper shape, size and with the right bite. The prosthetic tooth is made in a color that is well matched to your remaining teeth in order to give a natural appearance. After a short healing period, the replacement tooth is then attached to the secured post.
What are the Benefits over Alternate Procedures?
Although dentures have been used for many years to replace missing teeth, dental implants offer a benefit that removable fixtures just can’t provide. Edentulism (the condition of being partially or completely toothless) often causes the jawbone to further disintegrate due to the lack of use and pressure on the bone. Implants can stimulate new bone formation and prevent bone resorption. Having a permanent fixture placed in the space left by a missing tooth will also help prevent the remaining natural teeth from shifting into the empty space.
Dental implants can also be used for patients that are missing more than one tooth. For example, implant-supported bridges may be recommended for patients with three or more missing teeth in a row and post anchored dentures are sometimes preferred for those who are completely edentulous. A separate post is not generally required for each missing tooth, therefore a multi-tooth fixture can be permanently placed with the use of just two or more dental implants.
For more information about dental implants and other tooth replacement options, contact Gentle Dental in Queens at 718-461-0100.